East Region: (7) MSU defeats (2) Virginia, 60-54
In a replay of a Sweet Sixteen matchup from last year, the Spartans again prevailed in a rockfight with Tony Bennett's excellent Virginia squad. This year, Travis Trice came out guns a-blazin', hitting his first 5 shots to post 13 of his 23 points before the game was a quarter over and giving MSU a lead they would never relinquish. Fellow senior Brandon Dawson took over in the second half en route to an efficient 15-point, 9-board performance. Virginia struggled badly from the floor all day, hitting just 2 of 17 from 3-point range.
Of significant interest to MSU was the fact that in the other half of this region, 1-seed Villanova was upended by NC State. Michigan State will need to get past 3-seed Oklahoma for that to matter, though. Having now watched them a grand total of twice, I've noticed Oklahoma's strength slants to the offense, and a strong tendency to streakiness as well as a healthy number of turnovers. Limiting the damage from the inevitable Sooner hot streak(s) and taking advantage of Oklahoma's occasional carelessness with the ball will be keys on Friday if MSU is to return to the Elite Eight.
West Region: (2) Arizona defeats (10) OSU, 73-58
OSU's first-round matchup was a back-and-forth thriller with VCU which ultimately turned into a 3-point Buckeye win. Because I didn't see this game live, I'll refer you to Land-Grant Holy Land's recap/postmortem. Glancing at the box score, it's pretty easy to infer what happened here: phenom D'Angelo Russell had a serious off night, putting up a miserable 3-19 from the field, in what one can assume was his last collegiate game. Both teams deployed zones; Arizona successfully shot over OSU's, and the Buckeyes could not respond in kind.
Had the Buckeyes prevailed over Arizona, they would have had an enticing instate matchup with 6-seed Xavier in the Sweet Sixteen. Xavier reached that stage by defeating the 11 and 14 seeds in the region.
West Region: (1) Wisconsin defeats (8) Oregon 72-65
Wisconsin moved into the Round of 32 after a relatively humane euthanization of Coastal Carolina. In a classic Adidas vs Nike battle of the gaudy, Oregon actually kept pace with a Badger team that came out a bit less efficient than we're used to seeing. Joseph Young poured in half of Oregon's first half points, but Wisconsin went into the locker room with the lead thanks to a combined 19 from the ever-stellar combo of Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes. Sam Dekker joined the fun in the second half, and the Ducks couldn't scrape together enough support for Young to spring the upset.
The Badgers' Sweet Sixteen opponent is a tough draw in 4-seed North Carolina, powered by Marcus Paige and a bevy of guys athletic enough to give the Badgers' frontcourt issues. Outside of MSU's, this matchup is the one I'm most looking forward to seeing.
South Region: (2) Gonzaga defeats (7) Iowa 87-68
Iowa cruised to the Round of 32 by riding a frontline that diminutive Davidson couldn't cope with; against Gonzaga, the tables were forcefully turned on the Hawkeyes. Iowa's defense provided essentially no resistance in the first 20 minutes to a Gonzaga squad which finally appears to be fielding a team corresponding with its lofty seed. Iowa fought back after halftime to keep the game in question, but couldn't manage enough stops to close the gap to single digits.
Gonzaga goes on to face UCLA, a team which was a questionable entrant to the field but has somewhat vindicated their inclusion with a close win over SMU and a romp against UAB. One would have liked to see the Hawkeyes get a shot at former coach Steve Alford, who left the school on...less than amicable terms, but it wasn't to be.
Midwest Region: (5) West Virginia defeats (4) Maryland, 69-59
Maryland escaped an upset bid from Valparaiso in the opening round with balanced contributions from stars Melo Trimble and Dez Wells, along with Jared Nickens. Sunday's matchup with West Virginia was a seesaw affair in the first half. The Mountaineers managed a 1-point lead at halftime...which they promptly surrendered when Damonte Dodd punched in an old-fashioned three-point play. However, Maryland clearly had problems all game with West Virginia's swarming full-court press, fueled by Huggy Bear's use of his entire bench, the student managers, and a few of the taller guys in the crowd. The game was over when Melo Trimble suffered an apparent concussion after an inadvertent shot to the head from Dodd; without him on the floor, Maryland wilted under the Mountaineer pressure.
As a prize for winning this quasi-rivalry-type-geographical-proximity thing, West Virginia moves to the Sweet Sixteen to play- I forget, hang on.
Hm. Never heard of them.
So overall, the B1G goes 2-3 in the Round of 32 with MSU and Wisconsin advancing. Both have tough games left, but are also in reasonable shape to make it to Indianapolis. The Badgers play North Carolina at 7:47 on Thursday night, and the Spartans have a 10:07 tip on Friday against Oklahoma.